Literally Different Perspectives – Primary school children

Literally Different Perspectives – Primary school children

This week i spoke to 200 primary school children and it was the most nerve wracked I’ve ever been. How do you explain to 6-10 year olds what a local councillor is and what we do without seeing their hearts and heads drop.

Luckily it was Herbert Morrison Primary and Peter Mandelson had not long ago visited; most of them knew who Boris Johnson was so i safely told them that I am “like the local Boris” (refraining of course from explaining the party political and ideological differences)

I was there to talk to them about their walk to school and how it could be better for them.

I got three excellent bits of advice from the head teacher Eileen:
speak loudly, slowly and clearly
Do not ask open questions or they will all shout back at you, ask them to “put your hands up if….”
Tell them that they are really important and you need them to help you

And it was fascinating – lots biked to school and most kept their hands up when I asked whether there were broken pavements or holes in the road which made it difficult to cycle. Many kept their hands up when asked if they wanted more flowers and trees on their walk to school, everyone out their hands up when asked if they wanted to help plant them. Some teachers too.

The perspective of how children see the world is very different and one which I don’t think we pay as much notice to as we should. They literally see the world from a lower perspective which makes you rethink where you put low walls, how removal of street barriers might increase road safety but crossing the road scary or how big dog mess relatively to a small person.

I am going back in a couple of weeks to see what they and their classmates have come back to (Wyvil Primary are also doing the same project) and I cannot wait to see what they have come up with.

And I think what will be the most fascinating is how we solve their problems once i bring them back to the council and Lambeth Housing (where many of our children live)

The responses “not my department” “that’s not in the budget code” or “we don’t have permission to do that” are unwelcome at the best of times, but when the requests come from six to ten year olds surely unacceptable? It will indeed be a test of my Council of which I am very proud. I hope they will continue to make me proud.



Future of Policing in Lambeth

Dear Colleague,
I would like to ask that you join me on the 9 January at the Electric Social in Brixton to discuss policing issues with Stephan Greenhalgh from Boris Johnson’s office.

The event is an opportunity for us to put forward our concerns about policing and cuts. The future has been uncertain for some time leading up to and since the Olympics, but it is clear that we are facing a huge challenge to keep each and every corner of Lambeth safe.

On a regular basis I have met with our Borough Commander to discuss the future structure and corresponded with Stephen Greenhalgh, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.

We have very clear priorities about keeping Lambeth safe: targeting crime hotspots and working together to maintain good local partnerships between communities and the Police who serve them.

What can we do?
On the 9 January at 6pm Stephen Greenhalgh will be coming to the Electric Social, Acre Lane, Brixton as part of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) roadshow to consult Lambeth residents on our Policing priorities.

Please register by clicking the following link and-crime-consultation-events or contacted MOPAC at or on the phone at 020 7202 0202.

Why is this so important?
It is vital we make our voices heard with a consistent and realistic message from right across the borough. My main messages that I would like to raise which I hope you will help me with are:

Local Policing Works
Local policing is working. Having a dedicated local Safer Neighbourhood Team means that communities and residents get to know and trust their local officers.
I want assurances that this will continue. Safer Neighbourhood Teams are vital for keeping Lambeth safe and should be ringfenced

Local Police need a Local Base
For Safer Neighbourhood Teams to operate they need a local base – the threatened closure of Gipsy, Clapham and Streatham Police stations means that officers will be clocking on in Brixton and then getting the bus which is a waste of Police time. Not enough has been done to find suitable alternatives.
I want an assurance that no Police Station will be considered for sale until another local base has been confirmed

The Public need Access to Police
The closure of 24/7 front counters makes it unclear where the public can go at any one time to report a crime in a safe place. Police front counters should be open at busy times and local police teams should be out at public landmarks like libraries or in busy high streets so the public can see and speak to them.

I want an assurance that MOPAC will have a proper consultation about when and where local residents and businesses need their Police

The key message is that we need to have local partnerships with local police teams, working to local issues.

Please join me at the meeting and let’s try to get some clear answers about the future of policing in Lambeth.

Best Wishes

Cllr Jack Hopkins
Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Neighbourhoods
020 7091 9010

LGA Conference 2012 – learning or listening, peer to peer coaching the key

My first LGA conference was great and I will be back next year. I learnt a lot, I made some great contacts who I will follow up with and political friendships which no doubt will last as long as we all remain in office.

I leave Birmingham with some fresh ideas and approaches, some existing thoughts better developed and some dots joined up in my head. But 2 thoughts dominate for me and they are essentially about how we operate and whether we are making best use of our human resources.

What sticks out first is the difference between constructive dialogue and just being talked at. When people share experiences, work through problems with peers and colleagues from a practical perspective you get better learning which means something and a deeper understanding of problems and solutions in the context they come from.

Unfortunately many of the sessions I attended were old skool set pieces with ‘expert’ speakers making presentations or giving speeches to an audience, followed by short time for Q&A (which invariably never get answered) It struck me as strange that with so much experience in one place, there were not more opportunities to sit down and discuss some of the challenges that we are practically dealing with – to share learning and experiences honestly and openly?

Secondly we have not bridged the Councillor / Officer divide but there are bright spots. LGA peer reviews are done by joint officer and Councillor teams, but also ensures it happens in the host authority. Many Councils are piloting joint problem solving approaches, or changing structures to bring Councillors and officers together but it’s a little hit and miss and people I spoke to acknowledged that where these did happen, good working relationships were generally already in place.

When the @lgchallenge finalists were asked to outline the content of their 1st briefing to the leader when they become Chief Executive, not one of them mentioned manifesto’s, political priorities or values. In an era of austerity, political choices are absolutely key. I didn’t get the sense talking to officers or other Councillors that we are making sure officers understand that they work in a political organisation and equally whether Councillors understand how their own organisation works to get better outcomes for their residents.

In saying all that I feel that the sector is in a healthy place, with bright young things and wise heads, innovation as well as ambition to face the most challenging circumstances ever. Sharing across the sector better in a meaningful way so necessary culture change is realised and contextual is vital going forward with innovation happening in so many places and at a pace that has been set so crushingly fast.

I’m interested by anyone who is doing anything new or old that brings together officers, partners and Councillors (maybe even residents!!!!) in a meaningful way, so please pass on anything you know or want to shout about.